Diner meets chicken at new So. River spot


Staff Writer

CHRIS KELLY staff Chris and Jen Mays opened Anthony’s Chicken and Grill in South River July 9. CHRIS KELLY staff Chris and Jen Mays opened Anthony’s Chicken and Grill in South River July 9. SOUTH RIVER — If you stop into Anthony’s Chicken and Grill on Obert Street, owners Chris and Jen Mays will be happy to serve you.

Manager Stephanie DeStefano will also be there if you need anything, maybe even her husband, Jerry, who helps out from time to time.

But, where’s Anthony?

“In 1985, a gentleman by the name of Hector Palmer opened the original [Anthony’s] in Hightstown,” Jen said of the business’ other location. “He named it after his son. Chris was their original manager.”

Chris, who is originally from Hightstown but now lives in Millstone, has been involved in the restaurant business for 30 years. Though he had left Anthony’s to pursue other restaurant ventures, a call six years ago from Palmer offering his establishment to his former employee brought the Mays back into the fold.

“He said, ‘I know you know how to run it,’ ” Chris said. “And the rest is history.”

History for the second location of Anthony’s Chicken and Grill began July 9.

Jen said the restaurant business is in her husband’s blood.

“He’s not interested in anything else,” she said. “We’ve been together for a long time and this is what he wanted, so I took it on with him.”

Over the course of two months, the former Chicken Holiday location was completely renovated at a cost of nearly $100,000.

“We’ve done so much work in here,” said Stephanie, who is also Jen’s sister.

Response has exceeded expectations, Stephanie added.

“Reaction has been phenomenal so far,” the Woodbridge resident said. “There have been a lot of repeat customers.”

One of those repeaters, Margaret Byron, said she keeps coming back because the restaurant “has the best food in town.”

“Everything’s delicious,” she said. “And now that it’s opened, I don’t have to cook.”

Chris said a lot of the favorable response has come not only from the food prepared but also the positive attitude presented.

“I’m a people person,” he said. “I talk and joke with the people. I like the people.”

Chris said customers should always come first, inside –– and outside of the restaurant.

During the torrential rain that fell on Middlesex County last weekend, an order came that the restaurant’s delivery person couldn’t reach because of flooding. Chris delivered the food himself, walking through knee-deep water in the process.

“Whatever it takes,” he said.

While the original business, called Anthony’s Chicken and Ribs, focused primarily on those two items, the Mays expanded the menu to incorporate other items like wraps, burgers, cheese steaks and large salads.

“Kind of a diner meets chicken menu,” Chris said.

Because of the changes, he said business went up 60 percent and has remained steady.

All this is in hopes of opening other locations, eventually exploring the possibility of becoming a franchise.

But first, Anthony’s Chicken and Grill wants to make its presence felt in South River. Tonight, the workers will be on the corner of Obert and Main streets during Cruise Night. They’ll offer samples and gift cards while Stephanie’s husband dances around in a chicken suit.

“At least it’s got a mask so no one will recognize me,” he said.

Stephanie laughed at the thought of seeing her husband in the outfit.

“It’s the typical family business,” she said. “‘Hey, guess what? You have to come work for me today, for free.’

Chris said his is a family business that plans on sticking around.

“We don’t want to hit and run. We plan on being here a while,” he said. “We plan on being everywhere a while.”